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Recipe: Frozen fruit offers many advantages

  • NEW YORK TIMES
                                Peanut butter raspberry bars. Farm-fresh fruit might be harder to come by this year, but store-bought frozen fruit can work just as well.

    NEW YORK TIMES

    Peanut butter raspberry bars. Farm-fresh fruit might be harder to come by this year, but store-bought frozen fruit can work just as well.

There are so many reasons to love frozen fruit: Berries, peaches and cherries (mango and pineapple, too) offer a taste of summer whenever you want, no matter the season or the circumstances.

The fruit is picked at its peak and frozen ASAP, so the flavor is always at its best. Larger fruit is sliced, so it requires minimal prep. Pieces hold shape when folded into cakes, and don’t cave under the pressure of gentle kneading. Frozen fruit also keeps dough cold, which is especially helpful when working with biscuit and scone doughs or buttery, flaky pastry.

These three recipes can be made with whatever frozen fruit you find in stock at the supermarket or hiding under the hash browns in your freezer.

Keep your freezer stocked with frozen fruit, and you’ll have a season’s worth of easy desserts to look forward to: Cook fruit down with sugar and a squeeze of lemon for an easy homemade jam. Combine it with butter, honey and a splash of vanilla, roast it until caramelized and serve it over split biscuits. Toss it with sugar and a little cornstarch, then top it with biscuits or streusel for a quick cobbler or crumble. Fold it into muffin batter, drop it onto pancakes and definitely make a blueberry pie.

All of these recipes, once cooled, travel quite well. We may not be going very far, but we’ll probably need a snack. And who knows? We might just find something, anything, to celebrate.

FOR THESE highly nostalgic peanut butter bars, pick a fruit or a combination of fruits that most closely approximates your ideal PB&J. (The bars can also be made with 3/4 cup jam or jelly in place of the fruit.) Doneness can be a tad challenging to gauge because the dough is golden brown to begin with, so look for syrupy fruit that bubbles. It’ll set as it cools.

PEANUT BUTTER BLACKBERRY BARS

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
  • 1 cup (255 grams) natural or processed peanut butter or almond butter
  • 1/2 cup (110 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen blackberries, raspberries, blueberries or a combination
  • Flaky salt (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square pan and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides.

In a large bowl, stir together butter, peanut butter, brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until smooth and creamy.

Add egg and vanilla; beat to combine. Stir in flour, salt and baking powder.

Press about two-thirds of dough into prepared pan.

In a separate bowl, toss berries with remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Scatter mixture over dough, then crumble remaining dough over top, pulling it apart into big crumbs.

Bake on middle rack until golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Sprinkle with flaky salt, if using. Let cool completely before slicing into squares. Store, covered in refrigerator, up to 3 days. Makes 16 bars.

THIS ONE-BOWL buttermilk cake, with its silky stir-together batter, uses oil instead of softened butter, so the batter won’t seize when you add the cold fruit. (While buttermilk makes for a super tender cake, you can use whatever milk you have in the fridge.)

BERRY BUTTERMILK CAKE

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or other neutral oil, plus more for greasing pan
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
  • 1-1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon to mix with berries
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen berries (about 2 cups), any kind, any combination (quarter large berries)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch baking dish or pan (square or round is OK) with oil and line with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup oil, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and 1 cup sugar.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together 1-1/2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine.

Whisk wet ingredients into dry until just combined. (Some small lumps are fine.)

Toss berries on a plate with remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Fold into batter and transfer to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 53 to 58 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Cake will keep, loosely wrapped at room temperature, for about 4 days.

CHERRIES, peaches or berries work beautifully in these scones, and full-fat Greek yogurt can step in for the sour cream. A couple of things to mind: Quarter any big berries and chop sliced peaches before incorporating them, so you don’t have to wrangle them into your dough and overwork it in the process. As with any dough, use a light touch. Stop as soon as all the dry, floury bits are incorporated. And pat the dough together gently. A shaggy dough is a tender one and will almost always bind itself together in the oven. The wonky-looking ones usually taste best anyway.

SOUR CREAM AND FRUIT SCONES

  • 2 cups (255 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup frozen cherries (halved), peaches (in bite-size pieces) or berries
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk (preferably whole, but whatever you have is OK)
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Heat oven to 400 degrees with rack in the upper third. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl.

Using large holes of a box grater, grate butter directly into dry ingredients, stopping a few times along the way to toss butter pieces into flour.

Use your fingers to work the butter into slightly smaller pieces. Add cherries and toss to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream and milk. Add to flour mixture, and use a fork to stir until all the dry flour bits are incorporated but dough is still shaggy. Smoosh and knead dough a few times until it barely holds together, then dump it out onto a lightly floured work surface.

Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Cut into 8 squares, transfer to prepared baking sheet, and brush tops with beaten egg.

Bake until golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes. Let cool slightly. Scones will keep, covered at room temperature, for 3 days. Reheat, if you like, in a toaster oven or at 350 degrees until warmed through. Makes 8 scones.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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